10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Wednesday, July 11th
Welcome to 10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful Notes! In this column, I’ll work to uncover some interesting bits of information that might shed some light on players from that day’s slate of MLB games. This is not a picks column, nor is it a “fun facts” article – it’s something in between.
I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps you think about today’s MLB plays in a new way as you build your DFS lineups. Here are 10 Notes for Wednesday, July 11th.
Wednesday, July 11th
1. Chris Sale has fanned 11 hitters while walking just one batter in each of his last four starts; he’s the only pitcher in MLB history to string together four consecutive starts with 11+ strikeouts and one walk or fewer. Nobody’s ever done it before. Over this stretch, he’s striking out an incredible 47.5 percent of batters he faces. The Rangers represent an average matchup, ranking near the middle of MLB in strikeout rate (22.7%), wOBA (.322), ISO (.162), and wRC+ (98), which means Sale should have no problems having his way with them. Vegas agrees, as the Rangers have just a 2.16 implied total, by far the lowest on the slate. He’s even priced down a bit at DraftKings from where he was in his last start, when he was $14,000 and I (regrettably) endorsed Jacob deGrom over him in this space. With what looks to be a shootout in Coors Field and a few other desirable offensive spots, Sale may not be necessary for tournaments, but the way he’s been going, he’s an auto-play in cash games.
2. Lance McCullers relies on his curveball more than any pitcher in baseball, throwing it 45.8 percent of the time. How does his opponent on Wednesday, the Oakland A’s, fare against the pitch? Not too good. As a team, the Oakland has a .171 batting average against the pitch (ranked 29th in MLB). They have a .218 wOBA against the pitch (29th), and they slug just .270 (29th). Okay, but there’s noise in team-level metrics, since some of the players who accumulated those numbers may not even be in the lineup, or even in the majors anymore. Well, consider: the league average wOBA on curveballs is .267 this year. Here’s a list of A’s batters who have a wOBA of .207 or below on the pitch since 2017:
There’s no case for playing McCullers over Chris Sale or Jacob deGrom in cash games. But he makes an awesome tournament play. For one, he’s significantly cheaper than both of those pitchers, and for another, he’s been rolling as of late. In fact, over his last seven starts, he’s posted a 28.1 percent strikeout rate and a 56.3 percent ground ball rate, something no other pitcher in MLB can say. While it’s unlikely he outscores Sale or deGrom, he did punch out 12 White Sox batters in his last start, so the upside is there for him in tournaments.
3. After another solid outing against the Braves (6 IP, 1 ER, 6 K), Freddy Peralta now has four games of 6+ strikeouts and one or fewer earned run allowed in his first six starts in the big leagues. Only three other pitchers in MLB history have produced four such starts in their first six games: Kerry Wood (1998), King Cole (1910), and Rube Marquard (1909). Peralta has been a strikeout machine since being called up, as his 36.2 percent strikeout rate ranks second in MLB among starters this year, trailing only Chris Sale. But even if we put the strikeouts aside, he just hasn’t been allowing any damage. His .212 wOBA allowed since being promoted to the majors on May 12th is the lowest in MLB over that span. On Wednesday, he’s in a close-to-ideal matchup as he takes on a Marlins team that may be without arguably its best hitter, J.T. Realmuto (paternity leave). DraftKings is asking us to buy into a very small sample, as he’s priced way up at $10,300, but with two games of double-digit strikeouts on his resume already, he’s shown the upside. Peralta, like McCullers, makes for an excellent tournament play who could conceivably come close to the outputs of Sale and deGrom.
4. Kenta Maeda is one of just nine pitchers with a sub-2.90 FIP and 28.0%+ strikeouts this year, and the names he’s joined with are essentially the best pitchers in MLB: Bauer, deGrom, Verlander, Severino, Sale, Scherzer, Corbin, and Stripling. Quietly, Maeda is putting together an amazing 2018 campaign. Unfortunately, the reason it’s been quiet is that Dave Roberts continues to keep his starters on short leashes. Maeda averages just 86 pitches per start, which is tied for 109th of 126 qualifiers (and not surprisingly, teammates Alex Wood and Ross Stripling have averaged just 86 and 87 pitches per start, respectively). On Wednesday, though, Maeda may only need 86 pitches to mow down a Padres team that fans at a 25.9 percent clip against righties, second-highest in MLB. He struck out 12 Padres in hiiBut he only averages 86 pitches per start (compared to 86 for Wood, 87 for Stripling), tied for 109th of 126 qualifiers. He’s struck out 10 and 7 Padres in his two starts against them this year, and at $9,400 at DraftKings, the pitch count feels almost baked into the price. In builds that include some of the slate’s high-end bats, you’ll need to make sacrifices at pitcher, and Maeda makes sense as an SP1 in these types of tournament builds.
5. In his last start, Luke Weaver tossed a gem, carrying a perfect game through the sixth inning and ultimately ending with an eight-inning, two-run, six inning performance that was easily his best of the year. It was a breath of fresh air for Weaver, whose up-and-down season has largely been the result of his struggles the third time through the order. Take a look:
1st time through order: .252/.314/.385 allowed
2nd time through order: .223/.280/.318
3rd time through order: .337/.415/.627
While it would be nice to say that Weaver’s solid start was linked to something tangible – a change in pitch mix, an increase in velocity, maybe – in fact, the only real difference between that start and his others was, well, luck. In that game, he had a career-low .056 BABIP on 36.8 percent hard hits, something we simply can’t expect moving forward. But here’s the thing: he’ll probably be the chalk SP2 (and rightfully so) in an excellent matchup against the White Sox, who have allowed 20+ DraftKings points to guys like Blaine Hardy, Jhoulys Chacin, and Yovani Gallardo this year.
6. Over the past calendar year (153 games), J.D. Martinez has 59 home runs, 149 RBI, and a .321 average. Only three times in MLB history have those numbers been compiled over a full season: Sammy Sosa did it in 2001, and Babe Ruth did it twice, in 1921 and 1927. That’s pretty good company. Despite a game at Coors Field, it’s Martinez and the Red Sox who have the highest implied total on the slate at 6.34 runs in a best-case-scenario matchup against Bartolo Colon. Colon has allowed an MLB-high 2.67 HR/9 to right-handed hitters this year (not to mention allowing 46.3% hard contat), which means that Martinez has as good a chance as anyone of going yard on Wednesday.
7. Since 2017, only three first basement has 33 home runs and 49 doubles to go with 38.0 percent hard hits: Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and … Mitch Moreland. (I suppose you can throw Matt Carpenter on the list if you want, even though he’s switched to third this year). Moreland has been a steady presence in the middle of Boston’s lineup since being signed last year, and while he may not have the otherworldly power of a J.D. Martinez, he also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. At just $4,100 at DraftKings and with the platoon edge over Bartolo Colon, Moreland is one of the top point-per-dollar plays of the day.
8. Over the last 30 days, nobody has more barrels than Nelson Cruz, with 15. Cruz has been on fire, and on Wednesday, he’ll face Angels righty Jaime Barria, who has shown some reverse splits tendencies early in his career. It’s a small sample, sure, but a .387 wOBA allowed to righties this year is something worth attacking, and Cruz is priced down at just $4,200 at DraftKings. Given the negative hitting environment and the Mariners’ low 4.12 implied total, this is not a great spot to stack, but Cruz makes for an excellent tournament one-off given his price and the favorable matchup against Barria.
9. Take a look at Daniel Descalso’s pull rate against righties over the last few years:
2015 – 41.9%
2016 – 40.0%
2017 – 42.6%
2018 – 54.3%
This, coupled with his increased launch angle this year (20.2 degrees in 2018, when he’d previously never been higher than 12.8 degrees), it’s safe to say that Descalso has changed to a more power-heavy approach when batting from the left side. He’s pulling everything, and it’s largely worked as expected: he’s become more of a home-run-or-bust hitter, with a career-high .215 ISO to go with a career-high 24.3 percent strikeout rate against righties. Descalso and the D-backs are in a Coors matchup against German Marquez, who has been nothing special against lefties this year. His .354 wOBA is bad, but his .465 wOBA against lefties at Coors is much, much worse. The worst, in fact, in MLB, with the next highest in that split way down at .401. If Descalso is hitting in the heart of Arizona’s order, he provides some exposure to Coors at a reasonable price tag at just $3,900 at DraftKings.
10. Jedd Gyorko has crushed lefties since last year, posting a .418 wOBA and .279 ISO and striking out fewer than 14.0 percent of the time. Only two other hitters can match those numbers against southpaws: Nolan Arenado and Justin Turner. Just to be clear: the matchup with Carlos Rodon is not perfect. Rodon can rack up strikeouts in a hurry, and in a small sample, he’s limited righties to just 24.7 percent hard hits. But Gyorko, along with the other Cardinals righties, are priced way down at DraftKings (Tommy Pham at $4,100 is the only right-handed bat priced over $4K), and they’re getting a major park upgrade. Plus, their 4.71 implied run total says Vegas believes they’ll put some runs on the board. Given Rodon’s tendency to walk batters, Gyorko (along with the other Cardinals righties) make sense in cash games or as a lower-owned stack in GPPs.
Thanks for reading! Stats from this article were pulled from RotoGrinders’ PlateIQ tool, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Reference.
Check back for more “10 Notes” MLB articles every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, and feel free to drop a comment below if you want to leave any feedback or keep the discussion going!